The Simpson Desert Bike Challenge is unofficially the world’s oldest mountain bike stage race. It has been running annually since 1987 when a group of hardy cyclists attempted to race from one end of Australia’s largest desert to the other on rather rudimentary 26inch mountain bikes.
Today the race takes on a slightly different appearance but with the same grit and gumption required for the riders attempting to complete the race. Since the advent of ‘fat’ bikes the race has become the go to event in Australia for those wanting to test the limits of these odd looking wide tyred machines. However, the main appeal of the race is what has attracted myself to give this a bash in 2016. Taking place in some of the most iconic yet remote landscapes Australia has to offer, there is no debating that this event is a tremendous spectacle.
The spectacle of the Simpson Desert Bike Challenge
Races that offer it’s competitors an exceptional and remarkable story regardless of any individual result have always caught my attention. The Simpson Desert and the stark conditions faced in the outback Northern Territory, South Australia and Queensland are what many pioneering stories of this nation and it’s indigenous inhabitants are built upon.
Experiencing this landscape and being completely immersed in it’s elements for a week I know will change my own understanding of what the vast majority of our humble nation is comprised of and how hard it can be to make a life for oneself without the creature comforts we take for advantage in city life.
I find the idea of the race and it’s route from a water well named Purni Bore in NT to the outback station town of Birdsville, QLD to be inspiring. Having finished with any desire to competitively pursue a future in cycle racing I find spectacles inspiring. Also, having a job where I get to tell stories, I know that spectacles make for the best and most powerful stories. The Simpson Desert Bike Challenge is undoubtedly one of the grandest spectacle’s in our sport!
Fundraising at the Simpson Desert Bike Challenge
The race each years nominates a deserving charity for which the riders can raise money for. This year, the race will be raising much needed funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. The RFDS provide crucial emergency medical services to those in remote Australia. Many rurally based Australians can be up to 2-3 days drive away from adequate medical treatment. The continuation of the RFDS is crucial to the health and survival of outback Aussies.
This also aligns with the mission of this race which is to:
a) Provide opportunities for personal achievement in a sporting challenge.
b) Support community interests through raising funds for recognised charities.
c) Foster appreciation of the Australian outback and the natural environment.
The race has so far raised close to $20 000 this year, with hopefully much more to come.
My personal story
This December will mark 20 years since I was diagnosed with the condition of ‘diabetes mellitus’ or Type 1 diabetes. When I was first diagnosed I was under the impression my life would forever more be completely dictated by multiple daily injections and blood tests that would place a huge restriction on my opportunities in life. Since this time I have been lucky enough to have been surrounded by some amazing people who have helped me realise this was not necessarily the case. Around the world today however, many people living with diabetes are often held back by their condition and once real dreams for life can be taken away with a diagnosis of T1D. I hope by being the first ever Type 1 diabetic to completely accomplish the Simpson Desert crossing by bicycle I can help prove that the illusion of restriction in the life of those living with diabetes can be proved false.
I am very lucky to have some amazing support from the race organisation and the affiliated medical staff to ensure my safe carriage across the desert. I also have like in all my previous racing endeavours have had to make a little more planning than my competitors when it comes to managing my blood sugar levels in the desert.
I will also be lucky enough to be taking the stories of this race to Japan, Taiwan, Brisbane, Sydney, Newcastle, Melbourne and Tasmania in the weeks after this race in some public speaking engagements.
Preparing for the Simpson Desert Bike Challenge
With the assistance of the Subaru-MarathonMTB.com Team and the race organisers this race is fast becoming a reality for myself. Preparing for 600km of sand, heat and complete isolation is rather challenging.
This has been the biggest challenge so far. Riding a fat bike on the streets of Sydney will add considerable time to your commute! I have a few times taken the 16kg rig on the climbs of the Sydney basin. The strength required to push this bike on the road is a shock to the system after many years of spinning around on a lightweight road bike. I have also taken to the beach doing laps of the northern beaches on the sand. Which has given me even more respect for those who have completed the SDBC on multiple occasions. This is a hard, slow slog but worthwhile if you manage to sneak out before sunrise!
We’ll have a look over Justin’s Norco Sasquatch in the coming days.
Live tracking of this years Simpson Desert Bike Challenge can be found here:
Also follow @marathonmtb on twitter and FB also @justinmorrismdog on Instagram and @JustinMorrisTT1 on twitter for updates whenever telephone service allows the possibility.